Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is defending veteran Republican Sen. Thad Cochran as a "fabulous senator for our state" and attacking conservative groups that are urging him to retire and are fielding primary challengers against him.
According to Politico
, Barbour says conservative state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who announced he'll challenge Cochran in a primary, faces an uphill fight against what's expected to be a large GOP contingent if the 75-year-old senator decides to quit after six terms.
Cochran, who was first elected to the House in 1972 and has been in the Senate since 1978, has said he'll decide by the end of the month whether to end his distinguished political career.
"I hope he’ll run again," says Barbour, a two-time governor and former chairman of the Republican National Committee. "I’d like for him to be senator for life. He’s been a fabulous senator for our state. When we were in the crucible after Hurricane Katrina, he was just indispensable to our recovery."
Barbour warns that McDaniel is far from a shoo-in to replace Cochran. "Make no mistake about it: If Cochran does not run, we start over and there will be a very large primary. I think a bunch of people would run. These things don’t open often.
"There are a number of people who are talked about, most of them wouldn’t think about running against Cochran because they know how much he has helped and can continue to help Mississippi," Barbour continued. "If he runs again, it will be because he’s still got that capacity and he will use it effectively for Mississippi."
Although that sounds like a ringing endorsement, Barbour is hedging his bets on whether he will actually endorse Cochran should he run. "We'll see," he added. "I’m not predisposed to anything one way or the other."
The political wing of the Senate Conservatives Fund is forking out $263,500 on promotional TV ads for McDaniel in the latter part of this month while the Club for Growth has spent $250,000 on its own ads pushing the state senator.
But at the Republican Governors Association annual meeting, Barbour told Politico that the ads are a waste of money.
"We’re like a lot of small states, we’re not very influenced by outside groups, even outside groups that describe themselves as conservatives," he said.
"Maybe we’re a little resentful of people trying to tell us our business. It may be a problem for him (McDaniel). Every penny that’s been spent for him has come from New York, California, Chicago."
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